Resorts Five-Star Swag Bag a Hit With Guests

When the legendary Greenbriar resort hosted its inaugural Women in Leadership conference last year, there was significant attention paid to detail, as the speakers included a star-studded array of high-profile women in business, media and government. The event was organized by media power player Cathie Black, former president and chair of Hearst magazines, and a regular on the list of the 50 most powerful women in business.

"To say Cathie is particular is quite an understatement," says Greenbriar director of digital media and branding Chelsea Hover, noting that Black's exacting standards were evident in every aspect of the conference, including the gift bags that were handed out to speakers and attendees. Martha Stewart was the keynote speaker, and presenters included such luminaries as ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton and Mikki Taylor, Essence magazine editor-at-large and stylist to First Lady Michelle Obama.

"Cathie had very specific guidelines. The bags needed weight and had to include high-quality products with a focus on beauty," says Hover. The bags also needed to have a particular fit over the arm and be able to hold a laptop or an iPad. Many of the speakers were close friends of Black and traveled great distances to participate, making it even more important to Black that these women really enjoy the gift bags.

Hover began researching items for the bags six months before the conference took place, and the feedback from recipients suggests the end-result was five-star. The 300 stylish bags were made of reusable burlap. Greenbriar hotel-branded items in the bags included bedroom slippers, lip balm and wooden serving spoons. Birchbox, a beauty subscription service, supplied Hover with samples of high-end beauty products to try out for possible inclusion. "In one week I sent out 100 requests for donations to the gift bags – and 75% said yes," she notes.

The swag bag was so full that Vera Bradley's donation of 300 purses had to be distributed separately. Attendees received the purses at dinner, as a second gift bag. Imprinted silver business-card cases were included in all of the Vera Bradley bags. Plus, black leather boxes containing three Napa champagnes were given as VIP gifts to 25 of the speakers. "Everyone loved the bags; we got great feedback," Hover says. "If swag is done right, it's a jewel."
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